What Ancient Culture Can Teach Us About Customer Service

When it comes to putting people to sleep, the word “policy” is infinitely more effective than your average sleep aid.

In fact, most policy statements may as well be written in another language, given how often people actually read and refer to them.

But there is a phrase, from a dead language no less, that merits study: Atithi Devo Bhav

Atithi Devo Bhav is the ancient Sanskrit phrase adopted by the Indian culture as a moral and cultural touchstone. It literally means “Guest is God.” The meaning is clear and leaves no room for interpretation.

Your guest comes first. Your world is to be built around his or her needs.

If you take the time to look, let alone count, you will see that your company has put an incredible number of systems in place. Some may be complicated, like your order fulfillment system, and some may be defined by one or two steps, such as where guests are led to wait for their scheduled meeting.

I rattled the following systems in place at my firm off the top of my head:

  • Marketing systems and initiatives
  • Initial client interaction – from the time they walk in the door and are ushered into the conference room to the time their meeting actually begins
  • File opening system
  • Billing system
  • Order/engagement fulfillment system
  • Systems for client communications and access
  • File closure system

I’m sure you have others; you may have more.  Either way, here are a few litmus tests to assess your systems against the Guest is God concept:

  • Does your website provide easy access to all necessary resources, including contact information on every page and product information within a click or two?
  • Are callers consigned to voicemail jail or are they made to feel welcome and important when they call?
  • How long do you keep them waiting?
  • Are clients able to access wifi or made comfortable while they wait?
  • Are your bills easy to understand?
  • Are customers kept informed of the status of their order or do they have to wait and hope?
  • Are there enough points of contact within your company to avoid customer frustration?
  • Is it easy for your clients to make a payment or ask a billing question?

Too often, we design our systems to yield the information we want or reflect the format that works best with our own software or systems.  The question is:

“What would your systems look like if the only inviolate principle was that your customer is God?”

I think it’s a question worth asking – even if it means that one of your policies is written in Sanskrit.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 at 7:30 pm. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.